So where were the spiders? SEO, Google, and on-site optimisation
Successful on-site optimisation consists of three simple things: keywords, architecture and content. Get these right, and you’re well on your way to SEO success!
To get found by your audience (and to pass muster, as far as Google’s spiders are concerned) your website needs terms your target audience is searching for. This seems fairly self-explanatory – after all, if you’re selling fishing rods, you’re not going to make a webpage about real tennis or lobsters or whatever – but it’s not. Your audience won’t always find your site through the most obvious route – either because they’re searching for you using different terms entirely, or because the most obvious route is hypercompetitive.
So one of your very first priorities should be to do some keyword research to help you decide which terms should take priority for your business – and allow you to create content and pages that will boost your rankings for them. Google’s own Keyword Planner is a particularly useful tool, and Soovle’s autocomplete suggestion software provides a great way to finish certain search thoughts (it’s also kind of entertaining to just type in ‘how’ and see what kind of messed-up stuff people are putting into Google these days. You’re welcome for that little time waster!).
Once you’ve got your keywords, it’s important to make sure they’re put in the right place. For example, if you want to rank for ‘life-size celebrity cardboard cutouts’ (seriously, how did you get into that industry?) then you want to have it in the page’s URL – i.e. http://www.example.com/lifesize-cardboard-cutout), in the page title (H1) and in the text of the content itself.
Most importantly, it needs to be in the title tag – the blue underlined result that shows up when you enter a Google search. This is Google’s primary indicator of relevance to a query. To do this you should add it to the right part of your content management system (frequently shortened to ‘CMS’ – the software that manages your web content. Think Wordpress, Joomla, Sitecore, etc.) or ask your web developer to do so on your behalf.
A well-built website should have a logical structure that allows search engines to crawl it quicksmart. This will help Google to understand the importance of certain parts based on their prominence – think of it like a pyramid with multiple levels, but no dead pharaohs or insufferable tourists.
Remember: Google’s commitment to great user experience is borderline fanatical, and one of the big reasons why it’s still on top of the pile today. So if your site isn’t optimised for mobile you’re going to have a rougher time of SEO than you need to – especially in light of Google’s 2015 ‘Mobilegeddon’ update (not their coinage, but illustrative enough of its impact). In a more general sense, Google will make certain logical leaps to determine the quality of your site; like, for example, how long people are spending on your site. If they’re moving on after one page, their spiders are going to assume that your user experience sucks harder than an industrial vacuum cleaner and punish you with poorer visibility in search results.
Accordingly, a slow-loading website is a major no-no. Google is so insistent on this that it has even provided a free tool you can use to test how fast your site responds – both for convenience and, one assumes, so you’ve got no excuse!
Content is probably the most important part of on-site optimisation, and it’s instructive to remember the earlier point about providing a good user experience.
Because the truth is, poor or irrelevant content can be as much a turnoff for Google as a slow-loading site or one that isn’t mobile-friendly – not to mention your users. Don’t spam pages with ‘life-sized celebrity cardboard cutouts’ over and over again: this will alienate the weirdos who come to your page to buy them, and search engines are, as a rule, wise to this trick anyway. Use keywords in a natural and relevant way – and don’t forget, Google’s smart enough to understand synonyms as well. It’s a common misconception that SEO leads to clunky content writing: it may be true if you’re doing it incorrectly, but it certainly doesn’t have to be the case. If anything, SEO helps keep your content focused, on-topic, and interesting to your prospects!
If the above is kept in mind, and you provide fresh, relevant content on a regular basis, you’ll see higher engagement, lower bounce rates, happy search engines – and happier users!